People with disabilities already face stigma and discrimination. They are facing even more challenges as the virus continues to wreak havoc across the world. COVID is deadly to everyone. But older adults and children are more susceptible to it. So are the disabled and those with underlying conditions.
There are 61 million adults and more than three million children who live with a disability in the US. So it does beg the question – how dangerous is COVID-19 to people with disabilities? And how do we protect them against the virus?
The Dangers of COVID on People with Disabilities
A person’s disability doesn’t often reflect their health status. Many people living with disabilities are healthy. But there are some with underlying conditions due to their disability. For example, they might have a respiratory problem or a weakened immune system. These can become worse because of COVID.
COVID is dangerous to people with disabilities because of three key factors. The first is the virus itself and the risk of a poor outcome if you catch it. The second is the reduced access to the care and rehabilitation they need. Many countries responded to the threat of COVID by locking down cities. The idea is to contain the virus and prevent it from spreading. But it also means that some crucial health services may be on hold or reduced.
People with disabilities also have to deal with how the pandemic is being managed. There’s a lot of negative impact from the decisions the government made. Many cities were ill-equipped to handle the shutdown. Companies and facilities had to scramble to protect people. Some health measures were hard on people with disabilities.
Staying at home and not having visitors is an example. People who needed special care found themselves isolated and lonely. The risk of abuse and violence also increases the longer they’re confined at home. Wearing a mask and social distancing is also not workable for some people. Individuals with hearing or visibility problems are at a disadvantage. But if they ignore these rules, they’ll face censure or aggression.
Current Challenges Faced by the Disabled
The pandemic has changed the way we live. But daily life has become worse for people with disabilities and older adults. They are facing challenges that ordinary people do not have. Here are some examples:
· They can’t wear masks because of the health risks. It can be dangerous for someone with a medical condition or disability to wear a mask. It can affect their ability to breathe. It can result in sensory overload or worsen symptoms of PTSD.
· It prevents communication. A mask impedes lip reading. This makes it difficult for a person with hearing problems to communicate.
· They lose their support person/group. Many hospitals and health facilities have “no visitor” policies. This included the support persons that many disabled individuals rely on. Because of this, many people with disabilities are being denied critical care.
· They don’t have access to health tools. They might be incompatible with the devices used by patients with vision problems. Some of these tools might be hard to use by those with cognitive issues.
· It’s difficult getting to a testing site. Searching “where to get free COVID testing near me” is easy. The problem is getting to the said location. Many disabled individuals are homebound. Others need someone to bring them to a testing site. They also need help with the COVID-19 screening questionnaire.
Protecting At-Risk Individuals
If you or a loved one has a disability, you should take steps to protect yourself against the coronavirus. A little bit of planning and common-sense solutions will go a long way.
· Plan you’re responsible if you or your support person gets sick. Make a list of family and friends to contact if this happens. You should include neighbors and any local service groups you work with.
· Determine two communication methods you can use. This can be via landline, mobile phone, email, or text messages. Write down the details and keep them with you all the time. This will make it easier to contact your home and office if there’s an emergency.
· Stock up on the essentials. You should have enough groceries and medications on hand that will last for a month or more. You should also have vital household items, like medical equipment and cleaning supplies. Talk to your healthcare provider about your prescriptions and how to keep them filled up. Make sure you have photocopies of your prescriptions.
· Avoid closed and crowded spaces. Cut down on the times you go out in public.
· Always maintain a one-meter distance between you and another person. Keep away from anyone sneezing or coughing to avoid droplets carrying the virus.
· Always clean assistive devices or products you use. Don’t forget to disinfect wheelchairs, hearing aids, canes, etc.
· Make sure you and your caregiver always have access to personal protective equipment. You should always have masks and gloves on hand. Stock up on alcohol and hand sanitizers.
· Create a strong support system for family and friends. Socialization is critical for maintaining mental health. Make use of virtual tools to keep in touch.
Did you get new ideas on how to protect your loved ones from COVID? You should also read this post on what to do after getting vaccinated.
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